Hub drive vs mid drive - which is best for me?

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Snow Bird - Summer S.E. Michigan, Winter Gulf Coast North Central Fl.
Interesting thoughts Al. I would have thought that a mid drive putting its power through the gears would have had an efficiency advantage. One watt applied on a hub drive can only ever benefit forward motion x amount. One watt applied on a mid drive can benefit forward motion x amount in first gear x plus y in second gear etc, no?
The real issue is torque. Gearing allows for the torque from the mid drive motor to be different from the torque at the wheel.
Thought was regarding 2 bikes, one a geared hub and the other a mid drive, pulling the same amount of power while on a level surface. That removes the advantage a mid drive might offer.

There is little doubt about the mid drive advantage while climbing - especially when considering something steep and or tall enough to overheat a geared hub.

Much like comparing a 500w geared hub, a 1000w geared hub, and a 1600w mid drive rolling along on a level surface doing 10-12mph. All 3 bikes will be pulling less than 200w. Maybe less than 150w......

Now put them up against a big hill, and stuff, including how long it's going to take them to overheat, start to show the difference between them.... -Al
 

Merle Nelson

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
Interesting thoughts Al. I would have thought that a mid drive putting its power through the gears would have had an efficiency advantage. One watt applied on a hub drive can only ever benefit forward motion x amount. One watt applied on a mid drive can benefit forward motion x amount in first gear x plus y in second gear etc, no?
Am I thinking of this wrong? One watt expended from the battery through a hub drive accomplishes so much. One watt from the battery of a mid drive could accomplish the same amount, or, in a higher gear (since that watt goes through the mid drives gears - not directly into the wheel) it could accomplish more. (And thus be more efficient - at those times where that gear is practical.)
 

JRA

Well-Known Member
"Throttles? Why have a bike then? Get an electric scooter..."

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Click
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Snow Bird - Summer S.E. Michigan, Winter Gulf Coast North Central Fl.
Am I thinking of this wrong? One watt expended from the battery through a hub drive accomplishes so much. One watt from the battery of a mid drive could accomplish the same amount, or, in a higher gear (since that watt goes through the mid drives gears - not directly into the wheel) it could accomplish more. (And thus be more efficient - at those times where that gear is practical.)
If I have what you are thinking correctly, you are thinking about potential power/torque (what the mid drive is capable of), where I'm considering only the power/torque required to cruise on a level surface (a fixed amount, only what's required for a low cruise power setting). Potential power, especially when considering a Bafang Ultra, is huge. There's no production motor capable of making/using more. BUT, when considering only the power required/watts used to roll on a level surface, they aren't bad at all. No worse than other bikes. Seems counter intuitive maybe, but power required at a low cruise power level, really has nothing to do with the potential to be a torque monster using WAY more power...

Another way of thinking about this maybe, is that big motors, whether geared hub or mid drive, don't use any more power than a smaller motor all else being equal. The difference is the bigger motor will have the potential to use/produce WAY more power when/if required. Same story comparing geared hub v. mid drive......

Would love to demonstrate this for you if you were in the area? We could take a couple of bikes out and compare how many watts each was pulling while riding side by side. Then swap bike's if you would like. This area has some pretty good sized hills available to play on too, where we could see what they are capable of using when climbing those. Finally, you could see the difference in what pulling somebody my size (300lbs) requires on a hill, vs. what it might take for your weight. That's an eye opener as well. You would see first hand why I prefer the torque monsters when riding in this area. -Al
 

rich c

Well-Known Member
For me, the decision between the two styles boils down to; do you want a system that feels like you are riding a traditional bicycle with more leg strength feeling than you've ever had, or do you want to ride a scooter. I only ride mid drives. It's not proven statistically, but it's my opinion that a high percentage of people who tell you to never spend the big money on a mid drive, have never ridden one.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Snow Bird - Summer S.E. Michigan, Winter Gulf Coast North Central Fl.
For me, the decision between the two styles boils down to; do you want a system that feels like you are riding a traditional bicycle with more leg strength feeling than you've ever had, or do you want to ride a scooter. I only ride mid drives. It's not proven statistically, but it's my opinion that a high percentage of people who tell you to never spend the big money on a mid drive, have never ridden one.
I beleive you are talking about riding with a torque assist vs. something that's PAS/pedal assist only. That has nothing to do with mid vs. geared hub. You can get torque assist on either. That said, I'll admit that torque assist, especially the better/nicer versions, are generally found on the nicer (more expensive) bikes. -Al
 

Merle Nelson

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
If I have what you are thinking correctly, you are thinking about potential power/torque (what the mid drive is capable of), where I'm considering only the power/torque required to cruise on a level surface (a fixed amount, only what's required for a low cruise power setting). Potential power, especially when considering a Bafang Ultra, is huge. There's no production motor capable of making/using more. BUT, when considering only the power required/watts used to roll on a level surface, they aren't bad at all. No worse than other bikes. Seems counter intuitive maybe, but power required at a low cruise power level, really has nothing to do with the potential to be a torque monster using WAY more power...

Another way of thinking about this maybe, is that big motors, whether geared hub or mid drive, don't use any more power than a smaller motor all else being equal. The difference is the bigger motor will have the potential to use/produce WAY more power when/if required. Same story comparing geared hub v. mid drive......

Would love to demonstrate this for you if you were in the area? We could take a couple of bikes out and compare how many watts each was pulling while riding side by side. Then swap bike's if you would like. This area has some pretty good sized hills available to play on too, where we could see what they are capable of using when climbing those. Finally, you could see the difference in what pulling somebody my size (300lbs) requires on a hill, vs. what it might take for your weight. That's an eye opener as well. You would see first hand why I prefer the torque monsters when riding in this area. -Al
Very generous thoughts and sharing on your part Al. Thanks so much.
 

m@Robertson

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
@McAndy asking which is better hub or mid drive is like asking which is better Ford or Chevy at a monster truck rally. Lots of opinions, lots of screaming. Not a lot of breadth of experience. Throw in the throttle haters and those are the two guys up in the bleachers who drive Toyotas, feeling lonely and trying to get into the fight.

Listen to what @AHicks said. He's owned both and is speaking with balanced viewpoint from experience with both platforms, which only a few posters can lay claim to.
 

harryS

Well-Known Member
If I read your note right, McAndy, you're 88 years old and asking whether you should try a mid drive? Well, none of us ain't getting any younger. Go for it. At least test ride one for an hour, even if you have to give the shop some rental money. Also, look into better pedals. We can't be standing on tuna fish cans.

I own ebikes of all sizes because I convert them from regular bikes. I've ridden fat tire and skinny bikes. 20x1.5" tires up to 29 inchers. Front drive and rear drive. I have one mid drive, but it's a cadence sensor. If I rode places where I'd never come back if I fell down, what bike I ride would matter, but it's all urban bike path for me the past two years. 3K miles last year, Need 300 miles next month to match it.
 

McAndy

New Member
Region
Canada
I thank you all for your inputs and suggestions. I have read them all carefully.

Meanwhile I realized that I should have probably used the word 'effectiveness' instead of 'efficiency' near the beginning of my posts.

The conclusion I have now reached (hopefully correct):
Given the same applied leg power contribution over the length of a ride; and given the availability of the same battery watt/hour rating, the same motor (say 75%)/drive train (95%?) efficiency, the same bicycle and rider weight and tire friction, and the same only-moderately hilly terrain, and the same opposing or contributing wind force, a mid-drive and a (geared, rear) hub drive will offer the same total ridden distance before the controller shuts the motor off.
I will also assume that on both styles - mid drive and hub drive - the battery's power will decay at about the same rate, i.e., offering gradually less assist over the length of a ride.
As one of you said, and I embellish that now: A Watt is a Watt is a Watt is a Watt ..... .Given that, the mid drives I have seen offered - out of the box at least - seem to have batteries with less watt/hour ratings (e.g., 350). Ergo, my current standard 500 watt/hour hub drive will, at least theoretically, take me 43% further on a full charge (say 60 km, rather than only 34 km); and that can certainly be less stressful when setting out/returning!

So, I will, at least until into the next season, live with the occasional inconvenience of the only-12-point cadence-sensor hub drive.
And I will continue to enjoy the thumb drive (mostly only applied when hurrying across a busy street from a stop at a traffic light, to get away from crossing traffic; in my case, the motor only kicks in after about 90 deg. of the crank turn when in any Assist mode).

As one of you said, it takes a long time to get fully familiar with any ebike's operation (idiosyncrasies??). Nevertheless, next season I hope to be able to try out a mid drive, and, if found preferable for my circumstances, invest in one. Hoping that by that time 'lesser' manufacturers have begun to offer more competitive options than certain brand names now command. I am not hung up on brands, i.e., I do not feel a need to 'keep up with the Joneses'. If a product works well and reliably and can be serviced, then that is all that matters to me. But, as I said before, to each his own.

Well, thank you again. Take care, McAndy.
 

McAndy

New Member
Region
Canada
I thank you all for your inputs and suggestions. I have read them all carefully.

Meanwhile I realized that I should have probably used the word 'effectiveness' instead of 'efficiency' near the beginning of my posts.

The conclusion I have now reached (hopefully correct):
Given the same applied leg power contribution over the length of a ride; and given the availability of the same battery watt/hour rating, the same motor (say 75%)/drive train (95%?) efficiency, the same bicycle and rider weight and tire friction, and the same only-moderately hilly terrain, and the same opposing or contributing wind force, a mid-drive and a (geared, rear) hub drive will offer the same total ridden distance before the controller shuts the motor off.
I will also assume that on both styles - mid drive and hub drive - the battery's power will decay at about the same rate, i.e., offering gradually less assist over the length of a ride.
As one of you said, and I embellish that now: A Watt is a Watt is a Watt is a Watt ..... .Given that, the mid drives I have seen offered - out of the box at least - seem to have batteries with less watt/hour ratings (e.g., 350). Ergo, my current standard 500 watt/hour hub drive will, at least theoretically, take me 43% further on a full charge (say 60 km, rather than only 34 km); and that can certainly be less stressful when setting out/returning!

So, I will, at least until into the next season, live with the occasional inconvenience of the only-12-point cadence-sensor hub drive.
And I will continue to enjoy the thumb drive (mostly only applied when hurrying across a busy street from a stop at a traffic light, to get away from crossing traffic; in my case, the motor only kicks in after about 90 deg. of the crank turn when in any Assist mode).

As one of you said, it takes a long time to get fully familiar with any ebike's operation (idiosyncrasies??). Nevertheless, next season I hope to be able to try out a mid drive, and, if found preferable for my circumstances, invest in one. Hoping that by that time 'lesser' manufacturers have begun to offer more competitive options than certain brand names now command. I am not hung up on brands, i.e., I do not feel a need to 'keep up with the Joneses'. If a product works well and reliably and can be serviced, then that is all that matters to me. But, as I said before, to each his own.

Well, thank you again. Take care, McAndy.
Sorry, please make that 'only 42 km' instead of 'only 34 km'. My slide rule slipped :)-).
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Snow Bird - Summer S.E. Michigan, Winter Gulf Coast North Central Fl.
Where I have personally seen the biggest love/hate difference from bike to bike, regardless of size or drive type, is with the human interface, a.k.a. the motor controller and display. Get something crummy and you have a crummy bike. Get a good one and the bike is a dream to ride. It's the critical piece when it comes to riding pleasure. Unfortunately it's the least discussed, even in the best "ride reviews". They are very difficult to judge without actually riding them.

The biggest crime forced upon us, especially regarding the hub drives, is the programming done internally within the display and controller that the manf's force on us. What really chaps my britches is that with NO changes made in hardware, the software alone could make a world of difference. My point is this. A conversion to an aftermarket controller (especially the KT brand) can make a world of difference in even the least expensive bikes available. KT offers software within their controllers that is second to none. You would think that would make the KT stuff an expensive option, but nope, not hard to find for less than 100 bucks. The difficulty is in installing it. The support available for this isn't too bad for thos so inclined to try such a mod, but there are no directions available. There's just too many variables. I'm a huge fan. -Al
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Snow Bird - Summer S.E. Michigan, Winter Gulf Coast North Central Fl.
So, I will, at least until into the next season, live with the occasional inconvenience of the only-12-point cadence-sensor hub drive.
And I will continue to enjoy the thumb drive (mostly only applied when hurrying across a busy street from a stop at a traffic light, to get away from crossing traffic; in my case, the motor only kicks in after about 90 deg. of the crank turn when in any Assist mode).
Well, thank you again. Take care, McAndy.
This is the kind of thing I was talking about above. Due to a lot of misunderstanding that 12 magnet cadence sensor is way underrated. It's the controller that's at fault, and more specifically, the programming of that controller. In the case of a 12 magnet system that requires the crank to be turned 1/2 a revolution prior to powering the motor, some poor excuse for an engineer/programmer that's never ridden an e-bike before has that controller counting out 6 pulses before power is allowed to the motor. In a (more) perfect world, that pulse count would be adjustable, set to the rider's preferences. One pulse makes for a pretty sensitive crank. It's possible that it could be positioned just right where if somebody just bumped it it could provide you with an eye popping false start. Asking the controller for a 2 count much safer from that perspective. On the other hand, a sensitive crank makes for some pretty nice low speed (5-6mph) control on a single track for instance. You barely need to move the crank to turn the power on and off. Mine are all set that way. Because of that, I have a handful of brake climbing on/off to prevent that accidental/false start (dog only burns it's nose once). There's really a lot to it, but that often misunderstood 12 magnet cadence sensor is a good example. -Al
 

m@Robertson

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
This is the kind of thing I was talking about above. Due to a lot of misunderstanding that 12 magnet cadence sensor is way underrated. It's the controller that's at fault, and more specifically, the programming of that controller. In the case of a 12 magnet system that requires the crank to be turned 1/2 a revolution prior to powering the motor, some poor excuse for an engineer/programmer that's never ridden an e-bike before has that controller counting out 6 pulses before power is allowed to the motor. In a (more) perfect world, that pulse count would be adjustable, set to the rider's preferences. One pulse makes for a pretty sensitive crank. It's possible that it could be positioned just right where if somebody just bumped it it could provide you with an eye popping false start. Asking the controller for a 2 count much safer from that perspective. On the other hand, a sensitive crank makes for some pretty nice low speed (5-6mph) control on a single track for instance. You barely need to move the crank to turn the power on and off. Mine are all set that way. Because of that, I have a handful of brake climbing on/off to prevent that accidental/false start (dog only burns it's nose once). There's really a lot to it, but that often misunderstood 12 magnet cadence sensor is a good example. -Al
Yup it all goes back to programming.

I think I have mine set to 3 pulses. But, on my 2wd bikes I have the mid set to power on a pulse or two after the front kicks in, so withb just pedal assist (no throttle) the front hub motor engages first (and since its a much weaker motor, its a much gentler startup). That means the rear/mid engages when the bike is already in motion (it works out to when it crosses 5 mph on the flat) and that in turn means I am using the hub to take the hurt off the drivetrain that the mid would otherwise deliver. This is also why I don't have to downshift my rear/mid at a stoplight. End result is super-smooth operation from a stop, and virtually zero increased drivetrain wear due to a very powerful mid that never has to dig deep and use that power for normal operation.

Some people just want to write a check and go ride their bike. Which is perfectly understandable. But benefits like this are what make building your own and learning how things work under the hood very, very much worthwhile.
 

steve mercier

Well-Known Member
Dear members of this forum:
I am a newbie to it. I had already received a kind reply to a first new thread (please see further below) from an Ian (in Australia? New Zealand?) in another 'section', but cannot find it now to follow from there. My apologies to said Ian (by the way, Ian, if you come across this post: I live near Toronto, Ontario, Canada) .
My pressing question now is: Should I next buy another hub drive (as I have now), or a mid drive? I have never ridden the latter, but read 'it delivers a more natural feel' to the ride. I love the thumb throttle action on my hub drive when getting away from a stop, but have to be very careful navigating tight turns when releasing the brakes momentarily (motor power is applied strongly immediately). Perhaps a mid drive, if geared down in time, is more adequate? I understand that some mid drive models have a power inhibitor when changing gears (which I do a lot on my current bike). I do not ride up steep hills in the woods. I will really appreciate your thoughts on this choice of technology.

The text below describes my experience with my first ebike (as posted very recently) - now over one year long :
My ebike is a 2016 Urban Ryder, possibly designed by, and administered by Green Light Cycle in Burnaby, B.C. (with a very supportive staff), and probably built in Asia. Up to into the Covid-19 pandemic it was also sold by Costco.ca .
I bought it spontaneously second-hand at the end of July 2021, via Kijiji, with 3477 km on the Kingmeter display. It now reads 5933 km (early November 2021), ergo up to now I rode it 2456 km. I am a fair-weather rider, our season is say April to November (-6 deg. C this a.m.).
This bike with accessories now weighs about 59 lb. The accessories added by my very helpful local bike shop BicyclesPlus were: A rear bicycle rack with removable battery-operated flashing LED light, a CatEye Velo 9 'computer', and an improved rear fender support. I added a 'ding' (for lack of a better description) 'bell', and a Zacron coil spring saddle.
Since my big feet tend to slip off the pedals after about 35km (I am pushing 88), I added 1 1/4 inch (??) pedal extenders, and jury-rigged endplates to each pedal (wired-on tomato can tops, if you must know; but since improved with a more elegant and sturdier solution - the round tops for electric outlet boxes :)-) ).
I weigh 175 lb, have an only-30 inch inseam. My saddle is set to 31.5 inch above ground; a bit risky, but better for pedaling more effectively.
Other than a nail in the rear tire and an insecure rear fender I have had no problems at all (yes, I have fallen over about 4 times, fortunately all at a near standstill; you have heard of errant kids and dogs on trails, and those bl..dy tight gates..... )
I remove the nominally 48V, 13 A/hr Panasonic battery after each ride, leaving it charged below 80%/51V (actually typically around 55%/47V; yes, I am a data freak). Charging it up before a ride to only near-full, and, so far, perhaps 3 times a season, to 100%/54.3 V (the charger light shows green then). This is supposed to improve battery life.
I tend to use Assist 3/5 on shorter ides (20+ km), and Assist 2 on the out-leg of longer rides (say 52 km), on about my 5 typical routes (partly in subdivisions, partly on paved trails, partly into the country on less-traveled roads. Average speeds vary between 22 and 24+ km/hr (participating in the Tour De France is but a dream). Winds around here are typically light.
If you don't care to read the specs on this Urban Ryder: It employs a cadence-sensor-only geared rear hub 500W Bafang motor, used in combination with a much-used 7-speed Shimano derailleur.
Until last year, I rode a conventional hybrid bicycle. What I now really love about this ebike is that to a certain degree it now replaces my beloved 1990 candy-apple red Honda Pacific Coast 800 cc 630 lb touring motorcycle, which had become too heavy for me :)-( .
Well, so far, so good. Thanks for listening, McAndy.
Andy if you are 88 my vote goes solidly to the mid drive such as on a bike like a Trek Verve + low step or a Gazelle step through. I found my first bike somewhat dangerous as it had a hub drive with a crude sensor system. I had a few slow speed crashes while navigating tight turns though traffic barriers on it before I decided to switch to a Bosch mid drive bike. After pedaling well over 40,000 km now on my two mid drives I am still glad I did . The Trek Verve does however have a less powerful motor than the Performance CX on my bikes and if you live in a hilly area you may prefer the Performance or Performance CX motors.
 
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McAndy

New Member
Region
Canada
Andy if you are 88 my vote goes solidly to the mid drive such as on a bike like a Trek Verve + low step or a Gazelle step through. I found my first bike somewhat dangerous as it had a hub drive with a crude sensor system. I had a few slow speed crashes while navigating tight turns though traffic barriers on it before I decided to switch to a Bosch mid drive bike. After pedaling well over 40,000 km now on my two mid drives I am still glad I did .
Hello Steve, and first of all my hat goes off to you for cycling 40,000 km! Hub or mid drive.
Now, as sort of indicated earlier, I have a range cocern with the energy available from mid drive bike batteries. I have, lets say, 4 typical ride routes (West, East, South, 2 mostly on trails, resp'ly rural roads ; and the fourth randomly through subdivisions), the first 3 of them all being approximately 2x26 km long, back and forth. At the end of these my 48V, 13 h/hr, ssy 500 W/hr battery only retains energy safely for another say 10km. If I had those particular mentioned midrive ebikes with their, I seem to remember, only 350 W/hr batteries, I might cover in total only 42 km, not making it home as an ebike, all while applying the same legpower. Not too good. Do you sympathize :)-( ?
McAndy.
 

AHicks

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Snow Bird - Summer S.E. Michigan, Winter Gulf Coast North Central Fl.
In defense of mid drives (as mentioned, I really enjoy both hub and mid drives), if you can divert your attention to something not built to European standards, you'll find plenty of battery capacity is actually available on the market. I won't list all, but as I'm a big fan of Rize, these come to mind right away. Let me provide a couple of links you might find interesting. Not sure if you prefer step through or step over....

 

steve mercier

Well-Known Member
Hello Steve, and first of all my hat goes off to you for cycling 40,000 km! Hub or mid drive.
Now, as sort of indicated earlier, I have a range cocern with the energy available from mid drive bike batteries. I have, lets say, 4 typical ride routes (West, East, South, 2 mostly on trails, resp'ly rural roads ; and the fourth randomly through subdivisions), the first 3 of them all being approximately 2x26 km long, back and forth. At the end of these my 48V, 13 h/hr, ssy 500 W/hr battery only retains energy safely for another say 10km. If I had those particular mentioned midrive ebikes with their, I seem to remember, only 350 W/hr batteries, I might cover in total only 42 km, not making it home as an ebike, all while applying the same legpower. Not too good. Do you sympathize :)-( ?
McAndy.
Andy if you do like to ride that much kudos to you sir! I can only hope that I can still ride that much when I am 88. YES by all means if you want to avoid range anxiety more battery capacity is better so prefer a 500 over a 400 and a 625 over both. I have convinced all the people who ride with me to carry a second battery. I almost never go out on a single battery. If you go very slowly you can get that kind of range on of a single battery but the faster you go the more juice you use and I like to move at a brisk pace. Bikes with the Bosch Active line or Active line plus motors are designed to sip battery but personally I would rather ride the most powerful Performance CX motor and augment the battery capacity thereby getting the best of both worlds , longer range and brisker speeds. Here are a couple of good bikes that may interest you. This Moustache is assembled in France = https://www.jvbike.com/moustache-friday-285-open-2020.html and this Gazelle is from a Dutch company = https://www.citecycles.com/gazelle-ultimate-t10-hmb.html This Cube town sport 500 is from a German outfit = https://99spokes.com/en-CA/bikes/cube/2021/town-sport-hybrid-pro-500. Here is a spare powerpack 500 battery = https://citruscycles.ca/bosch-powerpack-500-ebike-battery.
 
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McAndy

New Member
Region
Canada
Thank you, Al and Steve for your links (at the moment, my possibly ill-advised vanity still prefers non-stepthrough frames)/commments/suggestions! I will digest all that.
Steve, I feel for you with the current (pun not intended) 'atmospheric current' devastating your particular area of B.C. Stay safe.
McAndy.